The zoo is getting a national audience this month, giving Tampa a reality series that doesn’t involve drunken partiers.
The third season of the Nat Geo Wild show Secrets of the Zoo features ZooTampa at Lowry Park. The first of the six episodes aired Jan. 5, and the season was filmed entirely at the zoo to share behind-the-scenes stories of the animals and the team entrusted with their care. From a koala joey to a rescued manatee, “the series features an array of compelling stories that highlight the zoo’s mission to protect and preserve animals and build a legion of wildlife champions," ZooTampa said in a news release.
The series is produced by Emmy-winning, Tampa-based Remedy Television + Branded, formerly Spectrum Productions. The production spent $936,330 in Hillsborough County during 48 days of filming last year from March through May, according to its application for a county production incentive of $93,633.
The first episode, “Stingray Stunner,” had a funny segment about an amorous male stingray that kept getting the females pregnant. The handlers moved him into quarantine to give the females a break. It also centered on Ceduna, the female koala who has a baby inside her pouch. Brace yourself for the cuteness overload when two koalas kiss. You can watch the episode on Spectrum on Demand.
Later in August, the baby koala fully emerged from its mother’s pouch, allowing the zoo’s veterinary staff to conduct a health checkup and reveal that it is a boy. The baby koala, known as a joey, is the first koala born at ZooTampa.
The Jan. 9 episode is called “Bear Necessities,” and the description says, “It’s spring at ZooTampa, and the animals are emerging from hibernation.” New episodes air at 9 p.m. Sundays and repeat at a variety of times during the week.
The local company hired for the job has been producing television shows for animal expert Jack Hanna since the early 1990s. It also helmed the first two seasons of Secrets of the Zoo, which documented the behind-the-scenes work at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.